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Federations seeking expressions of interest as Walking Football becomes a reality

Conjured in 2011 by Chesterfield FC in England, Walking Football is a modified version of the beautiful game, designed to keep people active no matter their age or fitness limitations.

Now, after the original announcement of the joint initiative between the Australian Federal Government and Football Federation Australia in January, a national Walking Football program has been rolled out across the country, with the full support of all nine state/territory Member Federations.

With over 800 clubs now registered in the United Kingdom, the less intense version of the game has proven a resounding success. With a particular emphasis on the physical fitness benefits of remaining active throughout middle-age and well into the retirement years, the potential health and social benefits are considerable.

The Federal Government has invested in those potential benefits for all Australians as they move into their senior years. It developed the Move it Aus – Better Ageing grant program, to which FFA successfully applied and the initiative was officially launched earlier in the year at Perth’s Inglewood United Soccer Club.

Months of financial, structural and logistical planning by governing bodies across the nation followed. Such diligence was required in order to bring the vision to life and provide the vehicle to potentially connect or reconnect older Australians to football; allowing them to enjoy the thrill of hitting the back of the net, regardless of the power behind the shot.

Along with the intention of keeping fans involved in the game no matter their age, Walking Football also stands to be a valuable community activity; providing support and networking opportunities for many older Australians.

Often widowed or isolated through family fragmentation, many crave the sense of community so often taken for granted by those still in the work force and/or actively socialising.

Walking Football stands to be a valuable activity, shared by like-minded people, seeking a social and physical outlet.

In addition, the initiative will provide new comers with the opportunity to enjoy the game of football without fear of injury or intimidation, with one foot remaining on the ground at all times and no slide tackles permitted.

Played on a smaller pitch and with reduced numbers (either 5×5 or 6×6), the game has been backed to the tune of A$1.8 million dollars. After the initial January announcement, Federations across the nation have spent immense time and energy in planning its implementation.

Now, with Australia’s summer season of football about to begin, it is time for those interested to act. An introductory video can be found at;

www.playfootball.com.au/ffa-walking-football?_ga=2.36150688.1872285948.1569278807-591840370.1569278807.

The short clip explains the basic principles behind not only the modified version of the game but also the major health and social benefits available to those interested in participating.

All contact details and the means to express interest and enrol can be found using the same link.

Thankfully, I am still able to enjoy the game at full speed. However, as we are all well aware, human bones begin to make some rather disturbing sounds as the years advance. Muscles tighten and our ability to run continuously for any length of time does wane.

As such, Walking Football looms as a potentially rewarding activity for those with a passion for the game, hoping to enjoy its complexity well into their advanced years.

Perhaps more importantly, it will also provide a space to talk about the game, relive the past and celebrate football in a supportive community that strengthens not only the body but also the spirit.

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Is Australia ready for a two-year World Cup cycle?

Battle lines are being drawn between FIFA and key stakeholders, as it remains to be seen whether Australia will support the push for a two-year World Cup cycle.

FIFA’s minutes from the 71st Congress, where Saudi Arabia put forward the motion to study the viability of a two-year cycle, doesn’t include what member federations voted for in the motion.

Football Australia hasn’t stated publicly whether they were one of the 166 nations who voted for the motion, or whether they support the plans.

Football Australia is instead adopting a wait-and-see approach, to avoid taking a position before any proposal for changes are put forward after the viability study is completed.

Two-time A-League Coach of the Year Ernie Merrick believes the push from FIFA for a two-year World Cup cycle is because of business and money.

“It’s about profit and loss. It’s not about the people in the sport really, and FIFA are always competing with their confederations, of which there are six, and FIFA only have one event where they make substantial money from revenue and that’s every four years,” Merrick said.

“So in effect FIFA loses money for three years, and then the fourth year and makes massive profits mainly from broadcast, ticket sales, and sponsorship from a World Cup.”

The majority of FIFA’s $8.7 billion in revenue between 2015-2018 came from the 2018 Men’s tournament.

The commercial value of another World Cup every four years is incredibly attractive to the governing body as a way to boost its already full coffers.

Australian football will struggle to keep up with other countries if the World Cup is hosted every two years, according to Merrick.

“At the same time a lot of countries, including Asian countries, are spending an enormous amount of money on facilities and preparation setups for national competition. We all know of England’s setup, which is huge at St George’s Park, and here we don’t have a designated specific setup to prepare national teams,” he said.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure that will have to change to give Australia a chance to qualify on a regular basis. We certainly have good players and good coaches and we can compete with anyone regarding players, coaching and strategy but when it comes to the sort of money involved in preparing a national team, friendly games, and the amount of travel involved, Australia is really going to suffer.”

Michael Valkanis – former A-League coach, player and current Greece assistant coach – believes that without aligning with FIFA international dates, it means the A-League will struggle to adapt to a two-year World Cup cycle.

“We saw the effects of the Socceroos going away to play, and it always makes it difficult on A-League coaches and teams to support that.” Valkanis said.

“You can see the effects it can have on finals games, and we’ve been crying out for a long time that we become parallel with the rest of the world with international dates.”

Some of Australia’s biggest competitors in the AFC are showing ambivalence towards the concept.

“It would depend on how it would all be organised,” a Korean FA official told Deutsche Welle.

“If we want to have consistent success then we need to play as many competitive games against South American and European teams as possible. At the moment, we play one or two games every four years if we qualify. It’s not enough.”

While the viability of a two-year World Cup cycle is being studied, it is unclear how determined FIFA is to implement such a radical change to the football calendar against intense opposition from some of its members.

Merrick believes the end result could be FIFA demanding a portion of the confederation’s revenue.

“I think four years is probably a better situation at the moment – maybe three years down the track – but I think confederations will have to come to an arrangement with FIFA, and FIFA will want to take some of their revenue somehow through licensing,” Merrick said.

Those involved in international football already believe that the best model is the one we have currently, something that Valkanis is a strong fan of.

“I am a traditionalist. I think the World Cup is something special that stands out from any other competition in the world,” he said.

“The only other event that comes close is the Olympic Games, and to change the format so we see it every two years instead of four, I don’t think it leaves it the same. It is special the way it is.”

Football Australia CEO James Johnson will have a challenge on his hands navigating what a change in the World Cup’s schedule means for Australian football, as FIFA continues to push for increased revenue from the game.

Football Coaches Australia welcomes Sports Integrity Australia independent investigation

FCA

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) welcomed the broad independent investigative mandate provided by Football Australia to Sport Integrity Australia, encompassing four different areas – harassment, bullying, intimidation and discrimination.

FCA encourages current and former players, administrators, referees and coaches, as well as parents and others involved in football in Australia to come forward through this process to enhance the positive cultural development in our sport.

FCA President Phil Moss stated: “As an organisation we have sought transparency, due process and procedural fairness from day one, so we fully support an independent and wide-ranging investigation into the culture of football in Australia.

“We must, as a game, hold ourselves to the highest of standards.

“The culture we live every day, how we treat each other and ensuring we are setting up the next generation to enjoy our great game is of paramount importance and entirely non-negotiable.”

Newly elected FCA Vice President Sarah West endorsed Phil’s statement:

“Everyone in our sport, from professional players, coaches, referees, administrators and staff through to those involved at the grass roots, has the right to participate in a positive and safe environment and to be treated with respect and fairness.

“There is no place in our game for abuse or harassment of any kind. This unacceptable behaviour harms people and diminishes the game.

“As coaches we have a duty of care to those we are entrusted to work with and must endeavour to always create environments which provide safety, trust and inclusivity so that everyone can enjoy the beautiful game on and off the pitch.”

Media inquiries can be directed to FCA Chief Executive Officer, Glenn Warry, on +61 417 346 312

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